Innovative Uses of Technology Series

Online Breakout/Escape Rooms

Virtually facilitate a collaborative spirit

2020 has changed our academic landscape. Classes moved online. Classes meeting in the physical classroom must practice social distancing. It’s difficult for students to find conversational moments in class to get to know each other. How do we help our students connect to others while learning more about what they can bring to a group dynamic? How do we help our students prepare for group work in our classes?

As faculty, we understand the importance of students working together in groups in our classes:

  • Collaboration creates deeper levels of knowing as students learn from the various perspectives of others. 
  • Construction of new knowledge together increases student achievement more than working alone.
  • Communication skills increase as students find ways to learn and use the strengths of others to meet a common goal.
  • Complex problems can be solved while giving students time to remediate what they don’t know from their peers. 

One possible approach faculty members can use is breakout rooms online. Breakout rooms, also known as escape rooms, present groups of people with a combination of problems to solve that can require logical thinking, problem-solving skills, creative risk and communication. These rooms are typically in-person locations where participants are in a space together who must solve the problems in order to “break out” or “escape” within a specific time period. 

UNCG’s Self Design Studio has been creating breakout room sessions in person for four years. Recently, they have been creating an online version of breakout rooms that faculty members can use during their synchronous meetings to use as group experiences for students to solve. The Self Design Studio can provide faculty access to existing breakout room scenarios, amend existing ones or create new experiences based on your needs.

To experience a breakout session, go to then “Workshops” to find their “Virtual Escape Room Registration” form. Experience an online breakout session yourself with others to see if this experience would work well for your students. If you want to use an existing breakout series or create your own based on the needs of your course, reach out to Matt Fisher at

Additional Resources

Measuring Outcomes through Multimedia Assignments

UNCG faculty are beginning to explore new assessment methods, as some of our traditional classroom assessments need reinvention. As instructors, we strive to find assessments that challenge our students and ask them to apply the learning from our courses. One possible option for this type of assessment is asking students to create a multimedia presentation. Multimedia work challenges students to find new ways to express their understanding of the content beyond just text. Furthermore, by allowing students to decide how they want to use multimedia to express themselves, we provide our students with multiple means of expression via Universal Design for Learning principles.

Multimedia Assignment Options include:

  • Videos through Canvas Studio – Students have access to Canvas Studio to create videos. Students can upload their videos through Canvas Assignments or Discussion Forums for peer feedback. Student Tutorial
  • Infographics – Infographics are images, typically one to two pages, that display information in a concise way for a specific audience. Example of infographic from UNCG library.
  • Podcasts – Students can contribute episodes to the same podcast series or create their own series. New to Educational Podcasts? Start Here.
  • Animations – Ask students to tell simple animated stories to demonstrate key concepts
  • Blogs or Wikis – Ask students to create their own posts, or work with a group, to cover specific concepts from the class.
  • Websites – All faculty and students have access to Google Sites via the GSuite of tools. Students can create their own websites with a variety of media to convey a message. Google Site Tutorial
  • Multimedia Bulletin Boards – Padlet is a great option to ask students to find, create and post a variety of media with annotation. 
  • Maps and Timelines – Ask students to create a tour or interactive timeline to teach a specific concept from the class. Google Maps for Project-Based Learning

Multimedia assignments can increase student engagement in your course as students explore the work of others and provide feedback. Remember, current students’ work can be great additions to future sections of your course, both as course content and samples of assignments. Approach students now about using their exemplary work in future courses. 

Want to have your students create a multimedia presentation but you are not sure where to begin? Consider reaching out to UNCG’s Digital ACT studio to schedule a consultation to get started.

Additional Resources 

Multimedia Assignments, University of Michigan 

Sample Multimedia Grading Rubric

Another Sample Multimedia Presentation Grading Rubric

Quick Video on how to Create a Multimedia Assignment

Synchronous Group Work Online

Fall 2020 introduced new course delivery methods to many UNCG faculty. Suddenly, face-to-face classes that were conversational and dynamic were moved online via Canvas and Zoom. The first concern of faculty was student engagement. How will I connect my students to each other so that they can learn from their peers? One solution embraced by UNCG faculty was synchronous online courses. Scheduled class meeting times were conducted live in Zoom instead of a UNCG classroom. 

We all learned how to Zoom quickly thanks to the sudden remote learning semester of Spring 2020. Now, faculty had to master how to conduct multiple group conversations and report out their findings during these synchronous sessions. 

One approach to group work online through synchronous sessions is using a combination of tools that keep students focused, set clear goals and give students a way to share their findings effectively. Cheryl Wicker, Clinical Assistant Professor in Family and Community Nursing uses Zoom for Breakout rooms and polling, PowerPoint slides, Google Documents and Google Jamboard to manage her group work online. 

Group Work Online can be an engaging experience for your students but it requires some preparation before the class starts. Think about these strategies:

  • The tools you use should serve a specific purpose. Less is more when it comes to incorporating technology in your meetings. Start with what you know and add from there. 
  • Give students access to specific resources before the meeting begins. Post an announcement in Canvas sharing the links you plan to use before your scheduled meeting time. Plan to share those links again in the chat in Zoom just before the activity. 
  • Explain briefly the first time you use a tool how to use it. Don’t assume that students will just figure it out a new technology while learning your course content. 
  • Do a practice run with your peers before your first time using multiple technologies in a synchronous session. Staff members from both the Teaching Innovations Office and ITS: Learning Technology are happy to meet with you to do a practice run. 
  • Remember that when you are screensharing in Zoom that you cannot see the chat window. Decide how you will be notified about student questions during your presentation. Possible approaches include selecting one student to gather the questions from the class, stopping during your presentation at specific times to address their questions or asking students to turn on their microphone to address you directly during the presentation. 
  • Find a moment at the end of the class time to reflect as a class on the experience to see what questions still remain for your students. This reflection can be a Zoom poll question, Canvas quiz or a class discussion.

Additional Resources

Online Synchronous Strategies (Iowa State University)

Zoom Tutorials – Breakout Rooms, Polling

Google Document Tutorial

Google Jamboard Tutorial

Using the Lightboard

Have you ever thought during a zoom presentation that if you just had the whiteboard from your classroom handy that could explain a complex concept easier to your students? Did you find yourself frustrated with the built-in online whiteboard you were using? If so, UNCG faculty members have another option. It’s called the Lightboard, and it is located in the Production Suite at 1100 West Market Street. 

The lightboard is a large, internally-lit piece of transparent glass that allows you to write using various fluorescent colors. A faculty member stands behind the glass looking directly at the camera for the presentation. Students can’t see the glass, but they can see the faculty member and what is written on the board. 

UNCG faculty members can reserve time in this production suite and work with a technician to record one or more video clips for your class to review (link to schedule below).

Editing your video is a great tip that Dr. Kaplan shares in this edition of the video series, but there are instructors who use this technology at UNCG without editing. Dr. Insa Lawler, also from the Philosophy Department here at UNCG, states, “I use the Lightboard studio for all my online courses, but I don’t do any editing at all. My approach is to record short videos typically between 8 and 18 minutes in length. I typically do a couple of takes for a single video, but then I simply use the best version that is sent to me. I don’t cut out anything or add anything.”

Find the approach that works best for you. Adem Wheldon, who manages the Lightboard Studio, is a great resource to help you plan best how to use this technology.

Possible uses of the lightboard for instruction:

  • Explain equations
  • Describe a diagram
  • Outline a concept, model or theory
  • Edit a narrative
  • Explain pronunciation
  • Create a timeline 


How the lightboard works

Sample of a tutorial video filmed in the Lightboard Studio

Make a reservation in the Lightboard Studio

Best Practices in the Lightboard Studio